Edwin DuBose Heyward was born in Charleston, South Carolina, into an old Charleston family. When he was two years old, his father was killed in an accident, and his mother began a struggle to support DuBose and his younger sister. Both of these events were to shape his work.
Heyward’s writing, both his fiction and his plays, often portrays life in Charleston, most notably life in the black quarter. His contact with the African American community probably came principally from his employment as a checker on a steamship company wharf, where he developed an understanding and appreciation of the lives of the African American stevedores with whom he worked. Afterward, he became successful in the real estate and insurance businesses. He was to pursue this career until his decision to commit himself to full-time writing.
Three people, in particular, influenced Heyward’s decision to commit himself to writing as a career. He developed friendships with John Bennett, a critic and author of children’s books, and Hervey Allen, who was later to write Anthony Adverse (1933). From these friendships grew the founding of the Poetry Society of South Carolina and Heyward’s serious involvement with writing. Heyward’s marriage to Dorothy Hartzell Kuhns also influenced his commitment to a writing career. He met her at the McDowell Colony, a retreat founded by the composer Edward McDowell for the purpose of encouraging artistic achievement. A...
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